A Guided Tour of Microsoft Bob

In 2010 as in 1995, you kind of need to see Microsoft's "social interface" to understand it.

Posted by  | Monday, March 29, 2010

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When Microsoft Bob officially hit store shelves on March 31st, 1995, it wasn’t synonymous with “tech-product flop of monumental proportions.” Even pundits who weren’t so sure about it tended to buy into the notion that it was a sneak peek at where interfaces were going. And almost nobody would have guessed that Microsoft would kill it a year later.

Given that Bob was estimated to have sold only a measly 58,000 copies during its brief life, many people who mock it to this day never actually used it. Here’s a walkthrough of some of its major features–take a look and judge for yourself. And don’t miss our history of Bob and insider’s look at Bob, Clippy, and friends by a Microsoft veteran.

(Note: I ran Bob on Windows XP to create these screenshots. If you’ve got to see Bob for yourself, finding it, installing it, and troubleshooting it isn’t too hard…)



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5 Comments For This Post

  1. David Hamilton Says:

    For me, the most interesting part of viewing these screenshots is to compare how Bob and the iPad try to solve the problem of the ‘simplified user interface':

    It seems that the contemporary view of how to make computers simpler is to reduce the number of options available to the user (by making many options context dependent), to generally reducing clutter by removing most buttons and all menus, and have single application task-switching. Although Bob seems to have got some of those elements right, its attempt to apply hand-holding through the complex tasks required by computers is one that sometimes works, but is not such a sure-fire winner that you can build an operating system out of it.

  2. CoffeeIsLife Says:

    Gosh. All these years I’ve been using computers and I’ve never even HEARD of Microsoft Bob. Which can only mean one thing…I’m still young! Woo Hoo! Thanks Harry ;D

  3. Kyle Says:

    Odd…………..We downloaded the same copy.

  4. Computer Repair Says:

    This was interesting and fun to read about. Makes me think about Windows 7 user interfaces, and how annoying they can be..

  5. jim Says:

    Essentially, Windows 8 is the newest Microsoft Bob. I saw a preview the other day and it was all icons and pretty pictures. If I understood the accompanying verbiage, there's not file manager, no Start menus, no program listings, etc., etc.. You have to click little icons and then more icons and then only programs with their own interfaces can be used (eg, no more RUN XPNETDIAG.EXE or PING YAHOO.COM to see if your Internet connection is working). In fact, I got the impression Win8 runs from "das cloud" so if your Internet connection is off, so are you! Gawd I hope I was reading that part wrong! Just another reason to hang on to my XP systems tighter than ever!

4 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. The Bob Chronicles Says:

    [...] A Guided Tour of Microsoft Bob [...]

  2. Opting Out of the People-Centric Web Says:

    [...] By Harry McCracken  |  Posted at 11:37 am on Thursday, April 22, 2010 Here’s a good post on how to opt out of Facebook’s new Web-wide features. As it shows, if you try to shut off outside services’ access to your data, Facebook attempts to convince you you’re making a terrible mistake. It reminds me of Microsoft Bob’s impertinence circa 1995. [...]

  3. Обзор свежих материалов, апрель 2010 « UI Warehouse Says:

    [...] Подробный рассказ из первых рук об истории одного из самых спорных и осмеиваемых интерфейсов. Его часто и много критикуют, хотя заложенная в MS Bob концепция была более чем интересной и должна была помочь неопытным пользователям разобраться с компьютерами. В серии материалов доступны история запуска продукта и галерея скриншотов интерфейса. [...]

  4. BOB [Retronomicon] Says:

    [...] Fonte: http://technologizer.com/2010/03/29/a-guided-tour-of-microsoft-bob/ [...]